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  • Posted February 15, 2023

'Have a Sweet': Grandma's Treats Threaten Kids' Teeth

Raiding the cookie jar or candy dish at grandma's house may be a treat, but it can also help ruin children's teeth.

And a new survey found more than two-thirds of mothers reporting that their kids' grandparents gave youngsters sugary foods and beverages, with no limits on consumption.

"I have many happy memories of raiding the candy jar at my own grandparents' house and, as a parent, I've hesitated with some of these talks myself,” said American Dental Association (ADA) spokesperson Dr. Genaro Romo, a Chicago-based dentist.

“Yet, cavities are the most common chronic childhood disease and can cause undue pain, as well as issues with speaking, eating, playing and learning," Romo said in an association news release.

In the study, researchers led by Dr. Jacqueline Burgette, from the University of Pittsburgh's School of Dental Medicine, followed 126 participants for two years.

While 72% of moms said grandparents feed their kids sugary foods, only 51% said they had addressed the issue with the grandparents. Reasons included how frequently grandparents and children interacted, the mother's dependency on grandparents for child care, the quantity of sugary foods and beverages provided by grandparents and the strength of the relationship between mothers and their children's grandparents.

The findings were published recently in the Journal of the American Dental Association.

In January, a separate ADA survey of more than 1,000 parents of children 17 and younger found that 68% believed their children consumed more sugary foods and beverages at their grandparents' house than at home.

Of those, about 73% said they would address the issue with their own parents, but not with their partner's parents. Only 43% said they would address the issue with their partner's parents.

“There is nothing sweeter than the relationship between children and grandparents,” ADA spokesperson and pediatric dentist Dr. Mary Hayes said in the release.

“Have the ‘treats in moderation' conversation, encourage water or milk versus juice or soda, and if offering a treat, opt for plain chocolate because saliva washes it out of the mouth more easily than sticky or hard candies," Hayes advised.

The ADA offered some additional dental health tips:

  • Brush twice a day with fluoride toothpaste.
  • Use a smear of toothpaste the size of a grain of rice for children younger than age 3. After that, use a pea-size drop.
  • Floss or use another dental cleaner to get between teeth each day.
  • See a dentist regularly, starting with the first tooth or at least by the child's first birthday.

More information

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has more on children's dental health.

SOURCE: American Dental Association, news release, Feb. 13, 2023

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